Circular myth time, poetics and the subconscious: London based performance artist Hollie Miller in conversation with Antoine Schafroth.
Could you describe your practice to our readers? What is your approach towards performance?
I am a performance artist with an interdisciplinary practice and background in contemporary dance. I use my body as an activated and politicised site, bringing charged materials to it to envisage ‘insideness’ and externalise the subconscious. I make site-responsive and intimate time-based work both live with the audience as witness and in derelict buildings and remote landscapes with my camera as witness. Following my performances, sculptural objects, material traces and clothing are often left in the gallery as artefacts that haunt the space in the afterlife with late viewers. I view the photographic documentation as crystallisations of living images.
Can you speak about the importance of sound in your work?
I collaborate with my partner Craig Scott who makes the sound for my performances and films. He is interested in the tension between human and machine made music and works with human performers, low fi robots and custom built digital and analog hardware to explore the uncanny valley through sound. Together we seek a sculptural dialogue that heightens the visceral intensity of sound and image, whilst blurring the perceptual line between them to create a hyperreal environment. In our recent show ‘Sonic Archetypes’ I made a body suit out of shed snake skin and slowly peel it off as if I am shedding my own skin. Craig built a quad rotary speaker with feedback microphones that play, distort and loop wet and dry sounds. This enhances the vulnerability of the action, whilst pairing synthetic sounds with this organic textile to make it become anthropomorphic. We have started doing R&D for a new project inquiring into how I can wear Craig’s hand crafted instruments on my body as extensions that produce electronic and acoustic sound in response to my movement.
Recently you released a new project, ‘And in the soil, there be mirrors’; it seems like you are expanding the notion of collaboration. Can you tell us why it is essential for you to integrate different voices in your work?
‘And in the soil, there be mirrors’ is a dance film that I made in collaboration with artist/ filmmaker Sam Williams with a cast of five dancers Tom Heyes, Jia-Yu Corti, Andrew Downes, Temitope Ajose Cutting, Karen Callaghan and Orlando a kestrel to an accompanying sound score by Craig. It was supposed to be a live site-specific performance set at Waverley Abbey in Farnham but due to pandemic restrictions we decided to make it into a film. This was the first time I have not performed in my own work and co-directing a cast of performers allowed Sam and I to upscale our vision to create beyond what we could achieve on our own.
All of the dancers’ movements brought different rhythms and dynamics to the piece that we wove together in the edit to create an asynchronous chorus of voices that we juxtaposed with other non-human forces.
Your work often presents time as non-linear. Can you tell me more about this idea?
I’m interested in circular myth time, poetics and the subconscious. Investigating the body through non-narrative highly visual performance I feel my role is often one of a conduit to play with the palpability of time and drift between liminal spaces where questions, feeling and emotions might appear and disappear. I’m looking for a timelessness: to be completely naked of culture is impossible, but I want to get as close as I can back to nature. I am drawn to recurring themes of embryo, metamorphosis, shape shifting, rebirth and decay.
What are you working on at the moment?
I am collaborating on a new duet with dancer/ choreographer Hannah Buckley called ‘Bone, Blood, Breath’. We are thinking about how we can make space for pandemic recovery through a kinaesthetic experience of softness, slowing down and embodiment. Using the imaginative sensorial body as a medium via somatics (comes from the word Soma, meaning the body as perceived from within), authentic movement and experiential anatomy (traversing the different layers of the body from skin, fat, muscle, tissue, bone, nervous system, organs and fluids). It really blew our minds when we learned that the bones in our body aren’t white but red as they are pumped full of blood. This has resulted in us making a very red piece! We’re thinking about how to share an extra soft and sensory version with children and planning a future tour.
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